Store-bought first aid kits never seem to contain everything I think they should, so I decided to build my own. Actually, I built four: one for the house, one for the car, one for day hikes and one for camping/road trips. Each first aid kit is uniquely tailored to its intended purpose.
I put a ton of thought and research into this, to ensure that each kit is as comprehensive as it needs to be to cover both major and minor medical issues, and I included a printable first aid kit checklist that you can keep in each first aid kit, so it’ll be easy to inventory and restock.
While I am not a doctor or a first responder, I am a type-A mom, who has raised two kids, spent tons of time in remote locations, and considered all the what-ifs. So, as you’re about to see, these first aid kits go well beyond the basics.
I’ve taken the time to explain the purpose of any first aid supplies I thought you might not be familiar with, and to make brand recommendations, where appropriate. I’ve also included Amazon affiliate links to some of the supplies, but only when referencing specific products that I chose for my own first aid kits, or when I thought it might help you to locate the right thing.
House First Aid Kit Checklist
I built this house first aid kit to be a good all-purpose first aid kit. It goes well beyond the basic bandages and aspirin that most store-bought kits seem to contain.
Everything fits nicely in this small EMT bag. It has the same footprint as your average first aid kit, but it’s double the height, so it holds a lot more stuff. I love all the little built-in pockets and dividers—they really help to organize your supplies, so you can find things quickly.
Here’s a printable house first aid kit checklist that you can use to shop for supplies. I recommend including a copy in your first aid kit, so it’ll be easy to inventory your supplies and restock them as needed. I’ve included some extra lines for additional items, so you can customize your first aid kit to meet your personal needs.
Notes About Some of the Items I’ve Included in the House First Aid Kit:
- Adhesive Bandages – I keep finger, knuckle and blister bandages in my first aid kit, along with some larger bandages. Fabric bandages are my personal preference.
- Liquid Bandage – Use it to close minor cuts and wounds, like paper cuts and knife cuts that aren’t too deep. It creates a waterproof barrier, and works in situations where bandages won’t.
- Drawing Salve – Rub this thick ointment over a splinter. Then, cover the spot with a bandage, and like magic, it’ll draw the splinter to the surface. Sure beats the pain of digging splinters out with a needle (especially when you’re dealing with kids). This salve can also be used to relieve the itch/sting of insect bites. Hyland’s Prid is the brand that I buy.
- Poison Ivy Rinse – In my experience, even vigorous washing isn’t enough to remove poison ivy oils, so I now keep a bottle of Tecnu Poison Ivy Rinse in my first aid kit. I use it as soon as I realize I’ve come into contact with poison ivy. It works on poison oak and sumac, too.
- Oral Rehydration Salts/Electrolyte Powder Packets – Developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), oral rehydration salts combat dehydration by using a balanced blend of sodium, electrolytes and glucose to help your body absorb three times as much water. Just mix a packet into water, and drink. DripDrop, Trioral or Normalyte are three brands of ORS to look for.
- Kinesiology Tape – This elastic tape can be used to temporarily ease muscle or joint pain by supporting and taking pressure off the injury. Unlike other types of tape, kinesiology tape doesn’t limit your range of movement. It’s also breathable, and can be worn for several days. The name-brand version is pricey, but Walmart, Walgreens and many other big-box stores have their own version that’s considerably cheaper.
- Universal Aluminum Rolled Splint – This handy, reusable splint has a thin aluminum core, and a soft foam covering. It can be bent to support all sorts of injuries. Sawyer SAM Splint is the most common brand. It folds flat, so it doesn’t take up much space in your first aid kit.
- Trauma shears – More heavy-duty than regular scissors, trauma shears are designed to cut through clothing with ease. They make quick work of cutting thick materials, like seat belts, denim, leather and more, but have a blunt tip, so they’re not likely to cut skin.
- Combat Tourniquet – I keep a windlass tourniquet in my first aid kit, so that, should the need arise, I’ll be prepared to stop arterial bleeding caused by a traumatic limb injury. This particular style of tourniquet can be applied one-handed. ASA TECHMED sells a set that comes with a tourniquet and trauma shears in a pouch. That’s what I have in several of my first aid kits. They also sell tourniquets in sets of 3, 6 and 11, if you’re working on putting multiple kits together.
- Hemostatic gauze and powder – These products are used to control severe bleeding, in instances where a tourniquet won’t work. The wound is packed with either the special blood-stopping gauze or powder; then, pressure is applied to the wound, until further medical attention can be sought. QuikClot and BleedStop are common brands.
- Vented Chest Seal – This is a special type of bandage that is applied to deep penetrating wounds to the chest, caused by gunshot, stabbing or a puncture injury. They’re designed to seal the wound, so air can’t enter the chest and lead to a collapsed lung. Chest seals are typically sold in sets of two, so you’ll have one for the entrance wound, and another (if needed) for the exit wound. Both vented and unvented chest seals are available. The vented version allows air that has already made its way into the chest cavity to escape. Hy-Fin is one popular brand. I currently have Rhino Rescue Vent Chest Seals in my first aid kits.
- CPR Mask – I have a CPR rescue mask in my house first aid kit. It eliminates the need for pinching the nose shut, and has an elastic band, which holds the mask firmly in place. The one-way valve keeps you safe while you administer CPR, and increases oxygen intake by 50%. I have the ASA TECHMED CPR mask in my kit. They sell a 4-pack, if you’re working on several kits at once.
- First Aid Book – I keep a copy of The Complete First Aid Pocket Guide, by John Furst, in my house first aid kit.
Car First Aid Kit Checklist
This car first aid kit includes all the first aid basics you’d expect. It also includes supplies to help you deal with car-specific issues, like car sickness, accidents and breakdowns.
I recommend keeping a first aid kit in each of your vehicles.
All the supplies fit nicely in the same small EMT bag that I used for my house first aid kit.
Here’s a printable car first aid checklist list that you can use to shop for supplies and restock your kit over time.
Notes About Some of the Items I’ve Included in the Car First Aid Kit:
- Hand Sanitizer – Sanitizer bottles always seems to swell and expand, when they’re left in the car, so I opted for individual hand sanitizer wipes, instead. Wet Ones makes some.
- Instant Cold Pack – These are special cold packs that do not require freezing. Just bend, or squeeze, the center of the pack to activate the ingredients, and it instantly turns cold. They’re intended to be stored at room temperature, so they may not be suitable for car storage in all climates or at all times of the year.
- Over-the-Counter Meds – Stocking your first aid kit with single-use packets of OTC meds will save a lot of space, but they aren’t easy to find. This Rescue Essentials Medications Unit Dose Pack is big enough to stock a couple first aid kits.
- Oral Rehydration Salts/Electrolyte Powder Packets – ORS should not be stored at high temperatures. If you live in a hot climate, you may want to stash some in a bag that you take with you every time you get in/out of the car.
- Barf Bags – I wish I had thought of this when my kids were little (it would have saved us a lot of clean up), but I now keep a couple barf bags in each car first aid kit, in case anyone gets car sick. These are the ones I bought.
- First Aid Pocket Guide – To save space, I put a Tiny First Aid Guide in each of my car first aid kits. It folds up smaller than a credit card, but still has everything you need to know. There’s an included magnifying glass, so you can easily read the small print. Brilliant. They sell a 5-pack, if you’re working on several first aid kits.
- Emergency Blanket(s) – I recommend purchasing a mylar rescue blanket for each member of your family, so you’ll have a way to stay warm, if you ever get stranded in the cold, or someone goes into shock. They take up very little space, so it’s easier than keeping a bunch of bulky blankets in your car.
- Hand Warmers – Keep some disposable hand warmers in your first aid kit, so you’ll have a heat source, if you ever get stranded on the side of the road.
- Light Stick – Drop a light stick in each of your car first aid kits, so you’ll have a way to signal help, if you need it. I opted for the Super Light Stick from My Medic because it lasts up to 30 hours.
- Emergency Whistle – If your car ever runs off the road, or ends up in a snow drift, an emergency whistle can help rescuers find you faster. I chose the S.O.L. Slim Rescue Howler Whistle because it reaches 110-decibles, and can be heard from over a mile away.
- Distress Flag – A bright orange distress flag is standard equipment on a boat, but I decided to also include one in my car first aid kit. It can be used to signal rescuers from land or air, if your vehicles ever goes down an embankment.
- Solar Phone Charger – A break down or emergency is the worst time to discover your cell phone battery is dead. Keep a universal solar phone charger in your car first aid kit, or glove box, so you’ll have a way to recharge your phone.
- Water Disinfection Tablets – If you find yourself stranded, water disinfection tablets will ensure you have access to clean drinking water. I recommend the Aquatabs brand. It’s certified by the WHO.
- Medivac Card – Our cabin is 45 minutes from the nearest hospital, so when we purchased the property, we also bought an AirMedCare subscription. It’s the largest air ambulance network in the U.S. If you ever need to be transported by one of the providers in their network, there’s no out-of-pocket cost. A family membership currently costs $99 a year ($79 a year for seniors), and there’s a discount if you buy a 3, 5 or 7-year membership. It’s good peace of mind knowing we have this coverage, and I feel good knowing our membership is supporting a vital service. If you’d like a referral, just shoot me an email. We’ll each get an extra three months added to our membership, when you sign up.
Other Things You May Want to Include in Your Car First Aid Kit:
- A safety hammer – This inexpensive tool has a hammer head that’s specially-designed for breaking the inside, non-laminated side of a car window, as well as a seat belt cutter. In my opinion, every car should have one. I didn’t include a safety hammer in the first aid list, only because I think it’s best to mount them close to the driver, where they’ll be easy to access in an emergency. If you don’t already have one, please consider investing in one. I think they’re so important, I’ve even given them as gifts.
- A small LED flashlight
- Disposable urinal bags – These are a life-saver, when you can’t find a bathroom, and your future self will be glad you bought them, if you ever get stuck in one of those crazy multi-hour or multi-day traffic back-ups. I recommend the TravelJohn brand. They even sell a TravelJane version for women.
- Glucose powder/honey sticks – If someone in your household is diabetic, adding glucose powder or honey sticks to your first aid kit is a good idea. Honey also doubles as an anti-bacterial for wounds.
- Bottled water
Day Hike First Aid Kit Checklist
This day hike first aid kit includes all the basic first aid essentials, plus supplies to deal with any issues you might encounter while out on the trail. This includes things like dehydration, sun exposure, bites and sprained or broken bones. Since injuries or weather can sometimes keep you out longer than expected, it also includes survival supplies.
As the person who’s usually tasked with carrying the first aid kit, I realize it’s not ideal to have a bunch of bulky supplies weighing you down when you’re hiking, so I tried to this kit small, but mighty.
To ensure my first aid supplies stay dry no matter what, I keep my day hike first aid kit in a 3L Sea to Summit First Aid Dry Bag. They sell a 1L version, which they recommend for day trips, but I find the 3L version is a better fit for the supplies I want to carry (and I actually think the 5L version would be even better). I’m considering switching to a first aid backpack.
Here’s a printable day hike first aid checklist list that you can use to shop and restock your kit.
Notes About Some of the Items I’ve Included in the Day Hike First Aid Kit:
- Sunscreen – I didn’t want to include a big bottle that would take up space, and potentially leak on everything, so I included single-use sunscreen pouches in my day hike first aid kit. Medique sells SPF 30 packets that are PABA free.
- Poison Ivy Rinse – If you accidentally brush up against poison ivy, while you’re hiking, this product allows you to immediately remove the oils from your skin. It doesn’t have to be rinsed off, so it’s brilliant for on-the-go use. Tecnu and Cutter both sell poison ivy wipes in single-use packets, if you’re trying to keep the size of your kit to a minimum.
- Tick Remover Tool – Unlike tweezers, a tick remover tool removes a tick without squeezing it, so there’s less risk of disease or infection, and less chance of breaking off the head in your skin. I have several different versions of this tool, and they all seem to do the job well.
- Mini Lint Roller – A lint roller works brilliantly for removing seed ticks from your skin and clothing. Just roll it over anywhere you see them, and the problem’s solved. Pick up a travel size lint roller, so it doesn’t take up much space in your day hike first aid kit.
- Snake Bite Kit – If you live, or travel to places with venomous snakes, a snake bite kit is a must-have. I own the Coghlan’s Snake Bite Kit. It’s small, but has everything you need.
- Trauma Shears – There are foldable trauma shears, if you’re trying to limit the size of your first aid kit.
- Vented Chest Seal – It’s good to carry a 2-pack, when you’re going to be in an area where hunters might be present.
- CPR Face Mask – All of my other first aid kits have a a CPR rescue mask, but since I was trying to keep this first aid kit as compact as possible, I opted for a CPR face shield instead. It folds up to about the size of a quarter.
- Waterproof/Windproof Matches – They’ll give you a way to sterilize equipment (like your tweezers), or to build a fire, if you end up stuck out longer than expected, whether due to injury or inclimate weather. I have the UCO Stormproof Match Kit in my first aid kit. I like that you can buy refills to restock the waterproof case.
- Light Stick – Bend the stick to activate it, and you have a way to signal for help. It can also double as a flashlight. I recommend the ones My Medic sells, since they last for up to 30 hours. I couldn’t find any other brands that lasted that long.
- Water Filtration Straw/Water Disinfection Tablets – I keep a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter in my day hike first aid kit, in case we fail to bring enough water, or get stuck out longer than expected. It takes up very little space, and cleans up to 1,000 gallons of water on a single filter. You can use it to drink straight out of a water source, or fill up a plastic water bottle; then, screw on the straw to clean the water as you drink. This makes it easy to bring water to a patient, who isn’t mobile. If you’re trying to keep your day hike first aid kit as light as possible, AquaTab water disinfection tablets are another option.
Other Things You May Want to Include in Your Day Hike First Aid Kit:
- A small LED flashlight
- A waterproof notebook and pen/pencil – A small waterproof notebook, like the ones Rite in the Rain sells, give you a place to make notes about treatments. They also give you a way to mark your trail. Just be sure to include a number 2 pencil or space pen in your kit. Other writing implements won’t work on the special paper.
- Glucose powder/honey sticks
Camping/Road Trip First Aid Kit Checklist
My camping/road trip first aid kit is an absolute beast. It has everything you could possibly need when venturing out on an extended trip. My family takes this kit when we’re heading up to our cabin, or going on one of our epic three-week road trips.
Knowing that we’ll be relying on it for longer periods of time, I also keep it stocked with larger quantities of supplies.
This first aid kit is considerably larger than my other first aid kits, so I store it in a full-size EMT trauma bag.
Here’s a printable camping/road trip first aid checklist list that you can use to stock your first aid kit and restock it, as needed.
Notes About Some of the Items I’ve Included in the Camping/Road Trip First Aid Kit:
- Duct Tape Mini Roll – Duct tape can be used as a make-shift first aid supply (to secure a splint, create a waterproof bandage, etc.). It can also be used to repair equipment on the fly. I keep a pack of RediTape duct tape in my camping/road trip first aid kit. It comes in a flat pack, rather than a roll, so it takes up less space.
- First Aid Book – Since this is my biggest, most-comprehensive first aid kit, I included a copy of The Complete First Aid Pocket Guide, by John Furst. This is the same book that I have in our house first aid kit.
Other Things You May Want to Include in Your Camping/Road Trip First Aid Kit:
- A small LED flashlight
- Disposable urinals
- A Waterproof Notebook and pen/pencil
- Glucose powder/honey sticks
How to Organize First Aid Supplies & Keep Up With Expiration Dates
When you’re dealing with a medical emergency, every second counts. Make sure you’ll be able to locate first aid supplies quickly, by keeping your first aid kit organized. I recommend using plastic storage bags to group like supplies together. For example, I keep all my bandages in one bag and all my OTC medications in another. If other people will be using your first aid kit (and it’s best to assume they will be), take the time to write the contents on the outside of each bag with a black permanent marker.
For products, like sunscreen, I also write the expiration date on the bag. This makes it easy to spot out-of-date items, so I can replace them, when I’m inventorying my first aid kits.
The trauma bags that I use for several of my kits have outside pockets, I reserve those for frequent-use items (like bandages), and trauma supplies that I don’t want to waste precious time hunting for.
I always put my supplies back in the same place, so I’ll know where they are, the next time I need them.
How to Save Money on First Aid Supplies
Building a first aid kit from scratch is definitely an investment. When I was ordering supplies, I found prices varied widely from store to store. I checked the price of each item at Amazon, Target, Walmart and Walgreens, then ordered from whichever store had the best deal. Often an item would cost $3 at one store and $5 at all the rest. That’s a big difference—especially when you carry that out over a bunch of supplies.
For basics, like bandages, gauze and OTC meds, I recommend buying the store brand. They’ll be cheaper, and you aren’t like to notice any difference in quality. Buying in bulk can also help you save, if you’re building several first aid kits at once. You can always split packages of bandages between several kits.
Be sure to keep an eye out for first aid-related sales and coupons. I was able to take advantage of several, when I was building out my first aid kits. And it’s worth noting that many of the items in these kits are FSA-eligible. This is an excellent use for those tax-free dollars.
With so many people now buying pallets of store closeouts to resell, you can often find deals on brand-new first aid supplies at flea markets and yard sales. I was able to buy a lot of my bandages and gauze this way. I even got lucky and found a bundle of trauma shears at one yard sale, and a second-hand EMT trauma bag at a flea market. You never what you’ll find.
Don’t feel like you have to buy everything at once. That can cause major sticker-shock for a frugal person (believe me I know). Just purchase a few supplies for your first aid kits each month, until they’re complete.
Help Printing the First Aid Kit Checklists
I recommend opening the printable first aid checklists in Adobe Acrobat Reader. It’s available as a free download, if you don’t already have it on your computer.
These printables have not been designed to be editable, so if you’d like to add items to the lists, you’ll need to write them in by hand. I’ve included extra lines for this purpose.
Consider laminating your inventory lists, to make them more durable. I like Scotch 3-mil laminating pouches, for projects like this.
Having trouble printing one of our printables? Click here for help.